President Trump has proposed removing the Food and Drug Administration’s responsibility for tobacco regulation in his latest budget request, an ask likely to be met with backlash from tobacco control advocates.
The budget request, released Monday, calls for creating an entirely new agency nested under the Department of Health and Human Services to regulate tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
There hasn’t been interest among lawmakers to make such a change, but in November, Joe Grogan, the director of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, said he didn’t see the point of the FDA regulating tobacco. He noted that other responsibilities the FDA has include authorizing drugs and other products that save people’s lives.
“FDA regulates drugs, which help people. … It regulates devices, which help people. Tobacco has no redeeming qualities,” Grogan said. At the time, however, he made it clear that he was speaking for himself and not the administration.
The budget request said the change would allow the FDA commissioner to “focus on its traditional mission of ensuring the safety of the nation’s food and medical supply.” The new head of the agency regulating tobacco would be someone, like the FDA commissioner, who has to be confirmed by the Senate “in order to increase direct accountability and more effectively respond to this critical area of public health concern.”
Currently, the role of the director of the Center for Tobacco Products is part of the FDA, and the person overseeing the department doesn’t need Senate confirmation.
The question of regulating tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, has ignited major battles within the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill as more and more teens have taken up vaping. Trump initially said he would ban all flavored tobacco products, but then reneged on that commitment and allowed menthol and “open carry” devices that contain flavors to stay on the market. Congress gave the FDA the power to regulate tobacco as part of the Tobacco Control Act that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009.
Any agency tasked with overseeing tobacco products would look at rules relating to reducing nicotine in cigarettes, regulating flavors, and putting warning labels on packets, among other ways to reduce smoking.
The president’s proposals do not have the force of law and are used to sketch out where the administration’s priorities lie. The decision of whether to overhaul agencies as Trump has proposed, as well as whether to increase or decrease their funding, will fall to Congress.
Kimberly Leonard – Washington Examiner – February 10, 2020.